The Slits now-iconic 1979 debut Cut is an unusual, but delightful, melting pot of sounds: strains of UK punk mix with Jamaican reggae, girlish chants dance with abrasive DIY noise. Slipping between the grooves and finding a home within the mix — perhaps most indecipherably, or even curiously, to the casual listener — is the influence of the early-60s pop standards of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach.
Growing up in post-war Britain in the 1960s, Slits guitarist Viv Albertine heard plenty of Warwick’s hits while listening to pop radio. Later, as a scrappy young woman running around London with next to no money and not much to do in the early-to-mid ‘70s, she came across a compilation album — Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One — in a used record shop with her bandmates. It became not just an album that they spent countless hours listening to together, playing it front-to-back over and over again, but one they — particularly Viv and lead singer Ari Up — would study, dissecting songs to their individual parts and taking note of the details, attempting to learn how to emulate Warwick and Bacharach in their own unique way.
For the past 40 years, the Slits have served as touchstones for female musicians, often cited for blazing a necessary trail for the coming riot grrrl movement and beyond. Today, we have the privilege of being able to look to Viv Albertine, and the Slits as a whole, for inspiration and empowerment, and are finally beginning to see their important role in history recognized in more mainstream circles. But in their formative years, female role models, particularly musicians, were much harder to come by; Dionne Warwick was one of them.
In this very special episode, we are so pleased to discuss Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One with Viv Albertine herself. Join us for a wide-ranging conversation that touches upon Warwick, Bacharach, and Hal David’s influence on the Slits’ music, as well as their own lives as young women in late-70s and early-80s London, the importance of representation, and so much more.
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Episode notes and postscript corrections
First and foremost: We’ve said this a million times, but we truly cannot recommend Viv’s books more or praise them highly enough. Both have had a tremendous impact on us, and we have yet to meet anyone who has read either and cannot say the same.
Support your local small bookstore or check them out here:
To Throw Away Unopened | 2018
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. | 2014
Follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear every song we discussed today
Follow Viv Albertine on Facebook and Twitter
Follow ’77 Music Club on Facebook and Twitter or shoot us an email if you have thoughts
Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits documentary trailer | 2017
Viv Albertine in conversation at British Library | 2016
The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls (BBC women in punk documentary) | 2014
“Typical Girls” music video | 1979
The Slits live performance and interview | 1970s; specific year unknown
Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach: Live at the Rainbow Room | 1996
Burt Bacharach… This Is Now (BBC documentary) | 1996
“Walk On By” live | 1965
“Don’t Make Me Over” live | 1963
On Viv and the Slits
New Doc on The Slits Questions Why These Pioneering Punks Have Been Overlooked | Paper (May 2018)
Viv Albertine Has Used Her Rage to Write Herself into Punk History | Noisey (April 2018)
The Slits Are Refusing to be Written Out of Music History | Noisey (October 2017)
The Slits’ Viv Albertine Defaces Male-Focused Punk Exhibition | Pitchfork (July 2016) ed note: HYFR, BAMF move.
How we made Cut | The Guardian (June 2013)
Like Choosing a Lover: Viv Albertine’s Favorite Albums | The Quietus (April 2013)
Girls Unconditional: The story of the Slits, told exclusively by the Slits | Loud and Quiet (July 2009)
Cut re-release album review | Pitchfork (February 2005)
50 Essential Albums of 1967: Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part 1 | Rolling Stone (September 2017)
Burt Bacharach interview: what was it all about? | The Telegraph (June 2013)
Dionne Warwick: ‘I refused a couple of Bacharach and David songs’ | The Guardian (November 2012)
Dionne Warwick sings Hal David’s last lyrics | CNN (September 2012)
Music And Lyrics: Burt Bacharach and Hal David | NPR (May 2010)
Bacharach and David: Reconciled and Honored | LA Times (May 1993)
Singers: Spreading the Faith | Time (July 1967)
Creator and co-host: Carly Jordan
Co-host, editor, producer: Carrie Courogen
Special thanks to: Becky Kraemer and Viv Albertine